The goal of Greenwood Stables is to rehabilitate horses that have been abused, neglected or facing slaughter. For as many of those horses as possible, she hopes to find caring families that will adopt them.
Some of the horses are used for riding lessons, pony rides and equine therapy.
But Bayes isn’t sure what this winter will bring.
“I assume we’ll probably winter most of these guys because nobody is going to buy horses (at this time of the year),” Bayes said. “I’ve never done this in the winter months, but that’s what I’m assuming.”
Financial challenges loom with rising hay prices because of the drought. The horse market is depressed these days and rehabilitative care often leads to veterinary bills.
What’s more, cold weather will suspend the riding lessons and pony rides Bayes provides to generate revenue for the cause.
“We’ll be OK—I mean nobody is going to starve,” Bayes said. “But it will be interesting to see how it goes.”
Ironically, family financial difficult is a major reason horses are neglected, abused or sold for slaughter, Bayes said.
Fortunately, Greenwood Stables is not the Bayes family’s primary source of income. Amy works as director of the children’s department at Newton Public Library and Kelly is fully employed as well.
“I can understand that financial circumstances change,” Amy said. “If Kelly and I lost our jobs, we’d have to get rid of (our horses). But we wouldn’t let them starve to death.
“I just know I can’t rescue them all—that’s the hardest part.”
To meet Rowan is to better understand the urgency that drives Amy Bayes. The 3-year-old pony came to Greenwood Stables earlier this fall weighing a “horribly skinny” 180 pounds.
“If we hadn’t bought her at the sale for $10 they would have shot her because she was too skinny to go to slaughter,” Bayes said. “It’s kind of sad.”
Upon inspection, a local veterinarian said Rowan had already birthed a foal and feared the pony might be pregnant again. Thankfully, the sonogram indicated otherwise.
But the vet did find an abscessed tooth that may have been festering for more than a year. It took two attempts before the diseased tooth was finally removed.
“But that wasn’t the reason (Rowan) was starved,” Bayes said. “They just didn’t feed her. Since she had been nursing a young colt at some point, I’m sure that didn’t help either.”
By the time Rowan arrived at Greenwood, her beautiful long mane was mangled from malnutrition.
“It still falls out because of nutrition—but she will recover,” Bayes said.
These days, Rowan weighs more than 200 pounds but still has a way to go.
“It will take six months for Rowan to get back to health—and then she has no training,” Bayes said. “Nobody’s going to want a horse with no training. We’ll either train her to a mini-cart, or to ride because she’s a pretty good size to ride.”
Rowan’s early life is a misery-based story, but a new chapter is being written at Greenwood Stables. Moonshine, another pony, faced a bleak future too until Bayes bought him at a sale in El Dorado.
“We weren’t going to buy him, but afterward the guy was beating him so bad he was bleeding, and he said he was going to shoot him when he got home because he couldn’t sell him,” Bayes said. “So I bought him for way too much.”
Daughter Saje took on the wild and unpredictable pony as a personal project. This fall Moonshine won second place in halter class at the state fair.
Then there’s Fraust, an Arabian quarter horse that was abandoned in a barn near Wichita. He couldn’t even walk anymore because his hooves had rotted from standing in manure for days on end.
“We’re hoping he’ll make a full recovery,” Bayes said.
Seven-year-old Petals came to Greenwood as the result of a seizure order in Harvey County, then a stint at Hope in the Valley Equine Rescue and Sanctuary in Sedgwick County.
“In order for there to be a seizure, there has to be one horse dead on the ground,” Bayes said about the law. “(Petals) was so mean, she hated people. Someone must have really tormented her, especially children.
“She got over it, and we use her for riding lessons now. She’s as good as can be for little ones. And she’s a jumper. We took her to the Kansas Heartland Show as a joke and she just cleaned up with all kinds of ribbons.”
Yes, a lot of misery-based stories are starting a new chapter at Greenwood Stables & Equine Rescue.
Amy Bayes believes her love of horses was genetically determined.
“I believe you’re someone born with a horse gene or you’re not,” she said. “I’ve always liked horses. As soon as I could get one, I used my own money and bought one—and that was when horses actually cost quite a bit.”
After she was married, Bayes bordered horses and worked at a stable. Later, she began working at a race stable and even took a turn at jockeying.
“I carry some guilt about that because the racing industry really abuses horses,” she said. “Horses are just a way to get money. It’s horrible the things they do to them—not all of them, but some of them.
“It’s a place where a lot of kill-buyers get horses.”
Kill-buyers add fuel to Bayes’ fire.
“Last year 144,000 American horses went to slaughter, and then they ship them to Europe, where it’s a delicacy,” she said. “It’s $10 a pound. They make really good money off of it.”
After slaughtering horses was outlawed in the U.S., the market moved to Mexico, which is not regulated.
“When they kill them, they slice their back so they can’t kick,” Bayes said. “Then they slice them and let them bleed out so it doesn’t hurt the meat. It’s a very agonizing, slow death.
“And it’s a horrible trip there,” she added. “There’s no water, no food, no rest. They travel at night because people harass them.”
Bayes said people are mistaken if they think only old and sick horses are hauled off for slaughter. In reality, 97 percent of them are young and healthy.
“I do not like slaughter,” Bayes said. “However, it’s legal and there’s nothing we can do about it. But it’s just like cattle, pigs or sheep—we should give them the best quality of life until they get there.”
Bayes said her family has always had horses, but they got into the horse-rescue mode after daughter Saje got a taste of it at Equifest of Kansas, a three-day exposition in Wichita for horse owners and horse lovers.
“She saw this horse rescue named Rainbow Meadows out by Sedan, and talked me into going out there,” Amy said. “We ended up adopting two of them.”
Bayes got hands-on horse-rescue experience while working at Hope in the Valley near Valley Center.
“I helped them through June, then decided to go into this myself,” she said.
Greenwood Stables operations are guided by a local board of directors “so I don’t become a hoarder,” Bayes said with a laugh.
So far, they’ve adopted out six horses.
“I had no idea it would be this easy, but we don’t charge very much,” Bayes said. “They sign a contract saying they will take care of the horse, give it proper vet care and nutrition, and they cannot breed it.
“That’s the main problem—overbreeding, just like dogs and cats,” she added.
Another stipulation is that adopters can’t sell the horse if it doesn’t work out.
“We won’t give them their money back,” she said. “They just have to give (the horse) back to us.”
During these first few months of operation, people have contributed financially or materially to Greenwood Stables even though it’s not yet a non-profit entity.
Gifts come in various forms. One man donated several large round bales of hay, another brings his skid steer to the farm to clear the manure from the horse corral.
Kelly’s parents, Charles and Iris Bayes, offer their nearby 500-acre pasture when it’s not needed for cattle and sell hay “at a real good price.”
“They wouldn’t have to do that,” Amy said.
Bayes said her finest moments in the business have come when horses are adopted to good homes—and she hopes for many more moments like that.
“I want to do this for as long as I can,” she said.